Updated March 24 at 12:29am

Sales is everyone's business

Everyone is in sales. To me, job titles don't matter; every employee must think about sales. It's the only way any company can stay in ­business. There are no jobs if you don't bring the business through the front door. That's why I have a …

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Sales is everyone's business

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Everyone is in sales. To me, job titles don't matter; every employee must think about sales. It's the only way any company can stay in ­business.

There are no jobs if you don't bring the business through the front door. That's why I have a sign on my office door that reads: "If you know where you can get us some business, come on in."

At our company, a sales mindset is a requirement. From the factory floor to the reception desk to the boardroom, figuring out what the customer wants and finding a way to deliver it must be at the forefront of every job. Whether you are selling a product, services or a corporate image, you are in sales.

A while back, I received an email from a loyal reader who used to be in sales but switched to information technology as a help-desk technician. Even though he was now on the side of delivering service rather than sales, he understands the personalized approach with customers, be it computer operators, network administrators or engineers.

He wrote: "When it comes to identifying and resolving technical issues, it's important to remember the human side of technology. I only have the phone to work with, but quite often those little or long pauses while waiting for a procedure to cycle through or a test result to return can be used to build rapport, ease tension or otherwise get to know the other person(s) on the line.

"The important thing to keep in mind here in taking advantage of these opportunities is that these people talk to the people who ultimately buy the company's services. If the service they receive at any point along the line is poor, or if the vendors' techs are impersonal or worse, abrasive or condescending, the salesperson talking with the decision-maker is going to have a rough time of it when it comes to renewing the contract."

So, you can see how having a sales mindset – no matter what role in the company – can have an impact on sales.

If you want to be successful in sales, remember the four Ws and the H.

n WHO? Know your customers. Get into the mind of your buyer – what does he or she really want? What do they really need? Sometimes, those two options are not the same, so be prepared to guide him or her to the best solution for the situation.

n WHAT? Target a clear outcome. Before approaching a customer, be certain of what you want to achieve. In some cases, you may not be seeking an immediate sale but more information about what the customer wants. Walk in with a clear plan and backup options, so you aren't wasting their time or yours.

n WHY? Listen to people. Successful selling isn't about talking to customers but listening to their needs so you can find out how your product or service can help.

n WHEN? Get to the point quickly. Once you determine that you have what the customer needs, resist the urge to launch into a lengthy lecture about what you have to offer. Customers buy on their schedule, not yours. Contact them frequently (without getting annoying) so they learn to think of you when they have a problem you can help them solve.

n HOW? Solve customers' problems. Address their needs, large and small, and show how you can help them. And here's some advice that some might consider heresy: If you can't help them, refer them to someone who can. There will be times when your product or service isn't the best fit, and your customer will appreciate your willingness to put their needs first.

Don't forget to measure your results. Keep track of successes and failures. Analyze what helped you succeed and where you may have slipped up. Identify some best practices that have led to success, and incorporate them into every customer interaction. Keeping track of your record can help you stay motivated and productive during dry spells and reinvigorate you when you're doing well.

Mackay's Moral: Selling isn't rocket science – it's people science. •

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com.

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